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Hair loss is a common development for people of all genders. But a bald spot can still trigger feelings of embarrassment and frustration while also affecting your self-confidence.

Causes of hair loss can vary widely, including:

  • stress
  • certain hair care practices
  • medical conditions that are inherited or are related to the body’s immune system
  • hormone levels
  • skin health
  • cancer treatment

In many cases, treatments are available to help regrow hair on a bald spot or thicken up hair growth where thinning has occurred.

But it’s important to rely on proven hair growth methods, and to be wary of products and treatments that make big promises with little scientific data to support them.

Sometimes, simple home remedies can produce good results, but you may need over-the-counter (OTC) or prescription medications to regrow hair if home treatments aren’t working for you.

If these approaches aren’t effective, medical or surgical procedures may be needed. Read on to learn more about how a bald spot can be caused, how to treat it yourself, and when you may need medical treatment.

Natural hair growth methods typically focus on improving circulation in the scalp or promoting hair follicle health and restoring hair quality.

Many products associated with hair growth are found in the home and are often used for other purposes.

Here are some options:

Rosemary oil

Rosemary oil has anti-inflammatory properties and helps improve circulation, so it’s a natural choice for treating hair loss.

Rub a small amount gently on your bald spot each night or consider using natural shampoo containing rosemary oil.

Peppermint oil

Peppermint oil is used to treat headaches, irritable bowel syndrome, and other illnesses. But it may also be an effective topical treatment to safely boost hair growth.

Rub some peppermint oil into your scalp with your fingers or use shampoo with peppermint oil.

Aloe vera

Aloe vera is usually thought of as a skin treatment for wound healing and burn relief. But aloe vera may also help regrow hair and protect the scalp from disease.

The Journal of Chemical and Pharmaceutical Research notes that aloe vera’s anti-inflammatory properties and many enzymes, minerals, and other healthy ingredients make it a safe and, often, effective hair growth treatment.

To use it, massage it into your scalp before shampooing your hair. Try mixing it with wheat germ oil and coconut milk.

Massage

Requiring no products, a vigorous scalp massage is one of the simplest ways to help boost circulation in the scalp and stretch hair follicle cells to promote thicker hair growth.

Firmly (but gently) press your fingers against your scalp and rub them across your scalp for at least 5 minutes.

There’s no shortage of OTC products promising to reverse hair loss, or at least slow it down. Some are more established and well regarded than others.

Here are some trustworthy OTC treatments for bald spots:

Minoxidil

One of the most widely used and proven treatments is minoxidil (Rogaine and various generic products).

It’s available in liquid, foam, or shampoo options. Stronger forms of minoxidil are also available by prescription.

Minoxidil may cause side effects like skin irritation or unwanted hair growth on skin near the scalp. If minoxidil does restore hair growth, it must be used indefinitely or its effects will start to wear off.

Collagen-based products

Collagen, a protein found in the skin and elsewhere in the body, is also associated with hair growth and thickening hair that has started thinning due to androgenetic alopecia.

Look for shampoos, conditioners, ointments, or serums that contain collagen. Try using them when you bathe or rub them into your scalp. It’s also available in an injectable form.

Collagen-based supplements may also help, but there’s less evidence that these work for hair growth.

Vitamin supplements

Certain vitamins and minerals are associated with hair growth, including:

Taking high doses of any supplement may put you at risk for complications. Discuss supplementation with your doctor before starting a regimen.

Before recommending a medication or procedure to treat your bald spot, your doctor will try to diagnose any underlying condition that may be causing the problem. This may include:

  • a review of your medical history, including current symptoms
  • a physical examination focusing on the nature of your hair loss
  • a “pull test,” where you pull a few hairs to see how many come out and how easily
  • a blood test to look for underlying conditions
  • a scalp biopsy, which is the removal of a few scalp cells or hairs to examine in a lab for clues to an infection or other cause of hair loss

Once your doctor knows what may be causing your bald spot, they may recommend one or more of the common prescription medications for hair loss.

Finasteride

One of the most widely prescribed hair growth drugs is finasteride (Propecia). It can be used by men and women.

Pregnant women shouldn’t use finasteride, as there may be a risk of genital defects in male babies.

Corticosteroids

Prescription-strength corticosteroids in liquid form can be applied directly to the scalp. This is often an effective treatment for children affected by alopecia areata.

Corticosteroid injections into areas of patchy hair loss on the scalp may help revive hair growth within several weeks in people with alopecia areata.

Anthralin

Anthralin is a topical treatment for alopecia areata. When applied to bald spots, it may help stimulate hair growth.

Methotrexate

If other treatments don’t work, your doctor may prescribe this powerful medication.

It’s also used sometimes with a corticosteroid. But methotrexate also carries some serious potential side effects, so follow your doctor’s directions carefully.

Surgery should be considered a last resort if other, less-invasive means don’t work.

The most common form of hair restoration surgery — transplanting follicles from elsewhere on the head — doesn’t always work. And transplanted hair follicles may not continue to produce healthy hair growth for a long time.

Be sure to discuss with your doctor or surgeon what’s realistic to expect from any procedure.

Hair transplant

Hair transplant surgery is a common surgical solution to permanent hair loss.

In this procedure, a doctor removes hair follicles from an area of healthy hair growth (usually the back of the head) and implants them on a part of the scalp experiencing hair loss.

There are two main hair transplant approaches:

Laser therapy

Though it hasn’t been widely evaluated, laser therapy has been shown in some small studies to reverse hereditary hair loss in men and women.

The idea is that a low-level laser can stimulate circulation and hair growth in follicles that have stopped producing hair.

Results have been inconsistent, so be aware that this may or may not work for you.

The most common causes of bald spots are age-related, while others are the result of treatable medical conditions or behaviors that can be changed to promote healthier hair.

Here are some of the most common causes of a bald spot.

Androgenetic alopecia

Also known as hereditary hair loss because it tends to run in families, androgenetic alopecia is the most common cause of hair loss from the scalp.

In men, the condition is often called male pattern baldness and usually refers to hair receding near the temples and top of the forehead, while hair at the crown of the head starts to thin.

In women, female pattern baldness differs and usually starts with a thinning of the hair all over the head.

Alopecia areata

Alopecia areata is an autoimmune condition where your body’s immune system mistakenly attacks your hair follicles.

Hair tends to fall out in small patches on the head, while the eyebrows, eyelashes, and other parts of the body may also be affected.

People with alopecia areata may be at higher risk for other autoimmune diseases, such as lupus and vitiligo.

Hormonal imbalance

Stopping some types of birth control can lead to a temporary loss or thinning of hair.

Women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) may also experience a hormonal imbalance that causes hair loss and other complications.

Stress

Whether it’s a divorce, a long illness, work problems, financial distress, childbirth, or any of the countless other reasons, stress can sometimes cause more hairs than usual to show up in your brush every day.

Usually, normal hair growth returns when the cause of stress eases or you develop different coping mechanisms.

Cancer treatment

Chemotherapy and radiation therapy can both lead to hair loss just a few weeks after treatment starts.

Hair often starts to grow back within a month or so of ending treatment. Medications to revive hair growth may help speed up the process.

Wearing a cooling cap before, during, and after treatments may reduce hair loss.

Hair products and styling

Hairstyles that pull back tightly can lead to a bald spot.

Shampoos other hair-care products containing the following ingredients may also be problematic:

A bald spot can be an alarming experience, especially if you’re in your 20s or 30s.

Coping with hair loss starts with accepting the situation and then being proactive about addressing it. Part of this comes from remembering that millions of people just like you are going through the same experience.

More than 5 million people in the United States have alopecia areata. The National Institutes of Health reports that androgenetic alopecia affects about 50 million men and 30 million women in the United States.

While the vast majority of men experience some degree of male pattern baldness by age 70, more than half of all women also have thinning hair by the time they turn 70.

To help you deal with the emotional aspect of hair loss, consider the following tips:

  • Work with a stylist to make the most of the hair you do have, or look into products such as wigs, hair extensions, scarves, and hats.
  • Be open with friends and relatives about how you’re feeling and what support you need.
  • See a dermatologist early on to discuss options such as medications or procedures to slow or reverse your hair loss.
  • Focus on positivity, and the people and things in your life that bring you joy. Exercise to feel fitter and more energetic.

Regrowing hair on a bald spot is often possible. You may need to try more than one type of treatment to get the results you want. Be patient and consider all your options as you approach this very common concern.

As with any medical treatment, hair loss solutions aren’t 100 percent guaranteed, and there may be unwanted side effects.

If you work with a dermatologist or other medical professional, be sure to talk about realistic expectations and any potential risks or complications.